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Driving tips and other life stuff

What Americans think of British roads

One of my favourite pastimes is finding out what Americans think of the UK. It's touching to rediscover the charming/perplexing parts of the country we take for granted.

The thing our distant cousins are most flummoxed by (other than words like flummoxed)? Our roads.

Quite aside from the fact we drive on the 'wrong' side of the road, Americans are terrified by our roundabouts, teeny tiny streets and winding, potholed lanes. Considering we basically adapted our road system from animal tracks we started following in neolithic times, it's not surprising visitors find it confusing.

I've compiled some of my favourite findings from a gruelling day of trawling Reddit. No, you're welcome. Really, it's my pleasure.

  1. They just cannot believe the condition of our roads

    The great British road

    What? That's nearly new that is - my grandma was at least 5 when they resurfaced it last.

    "Like they dug up some boulders, tried to find a side that was mostly flat-ish, and got some guys in boots to try and stomp it down pretty good."
  2. But they don't like sharing them

    The great British road

    Sheep are road users too

    "What happened in Cambridge? What actually happened there? It's like they promote the endangerment of life by throwing cyclists around everywhere in the busiest of junctions and the windiest of roads."
  3. Roundabouts are, at best, eccentric - and at worst, portals to hell

    The Magic Roundabout Swindon

    A masterpiece

    "As an American, living in an area with no roundabouts, I would probably merge until I could park the car out of the way and get out and walk for the rest of my life. This would absolutely break me."
    "Nope."
  4. Our road signs hinder rather than help

    Road sign

    But...how do I get to Bournemouth?

    "It's bad enough I'm driving on the left, but when I come to a roundabout or intersection, I want the road signs to direct me to my destination. For instance, let's say you're driving from Exeter to Swindon. After 5 miles you are desperate to orient yourself. So you arrive at another roundabout and this one has 3 exits labeled Fartington, Woolton Nackerby, and Nipplebridge. Which one do I take? WHO KNOWS?"
    "I asked Londoners what the secret to navigating there was and they just said, 'I dunno chap, we're pretty much perpetually lost ourselves.'"
  5. The rules of the road are painfully perplexing

    Road signs

    Oh, OK then.

    "Could someone explain to me what the English road rules are so that I'd understand better? The squiggly and dotted lines are kind of confusing."
    "Damn England why can't you just drive normal and learn to play baseball, you make everything so complicated."
    "But who actually IS Ronnie Pickering?"
  6. And we're generally just inconsistent and confusing

    Metric and imperial

    Metric or imperial - you decide!

    "You use metric, except for road signs. You sell gas by the liter, but you rate cars by mpg. However, the UK gallon is 20% bigger than a standard gallon. I thought the US had a bad measurement system, but at least it's consistent."
  7. You can take some quiet pride in our ridiculous roads

    It's quite telling that Americans have to take a test to get a new driving licence here, rather than just trading in their US licence.

    They have long, straight roads big enough to drive a tank down - and we have Magic Roundabouts. And gears. And tractors towing classic cars with some chickens in the driver's seat.

    Makes you feel quite smug about that driving test pass, huh? Go you.

    Swindon's Magic Roundabout

    It's not just us - Europe's at it too! Check out Europe's tricky driving rules.


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Honor joined ingenie in 2014 and is in charge of words on the Young Driver's Guide and blog. Her first car is a Peugeot 206 cabriolet, which is a very sensible choice for the British climate. Follow her on .